NFL franchise San Francisco 49ers increase stake in Leeds United

The San Francisco 49ers have increased their stake in Leeds United to 37%, the Premier League club have announced.

Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises who was already a member of the Yorkshire club’s board, becomes the Whites’ vice-chairman and will be “more involved in the decision-making process and day-to-day operations”, Leeds said in a statement.

The NFL franchise bought an initial 15% stake from the Leeds chairman and majority owner, Andrea Radrizzani, in 2018.

“We are delighted to welcome further investment into our club from 49ers Enterprises and I am confident that this latest partnership will help Leeds United continue to grow and develop into the team our supporters deserve,” Radrizzani said in a statement. “I have always been open to bringing partners on this journey with me, as long as these actions can benefit the long-term strategy of the club.

“Paraag and the team at 49ers Enterprises are uniquely positioned to collaborate with myself, [chief executive] Angus Kinnear, [director of football] Victor Orta and our management team to help us achieve our goals,” said the Italian, who took a controlling stake in the Elland Road club in 2017.

Marathe said: “Our 49ers Enterprises team has always shared Andrea’s vision for constructing a powerful and winning club in the most competitive football league in the world, and the experience of the last three seasons has been more exhilarating than we could have ever imagined.

“The hard work and bold leadership demonstrated by Andrea and his talented team has restored Leeds United’s rightful place in the Premier League and we look forward to playing an even bigger role in supporting their efforts to climb the table this year and into the future.”

The news comes with Marcelo Bielsa’s side enduring a slump in form after making a strong start on their return to the Premier League. Leeds visit Newcastle United on Tuesday, with Steve Bruce’s team in an even deeper rut – but Bielsa is focused only on his own team’s form.

“We analyse the difficulties of the opponent, but of course we worry more about our own difficulties and our difficulties are just as present as theirs,” Bielsa said. “We’re not focused on the opponent’s bad run of form, we’re focused on our own game and trying to improve our own form.

“In no way do we feel that Newcastle’s poor run of form will help us regain ours. It’s not a rival’s poor run of form that will help us improve, we have to improve on our own.”

Leeds sit 12th in the table, four points above Newcastle, after league defeats at Tottenham and at home against Brighton.

Bielsa also hit back at suggestions that the team’s dip in form is because of player fatigue. “The physical performance [data] of Leeds United is available to those who would like to look at them. Whether it’s true that my teams run less or become tired is information that is incorrect. Anyone who has an opinion on this aspect can look and see that they are wrong.”

Leeds will welcome the midfielder Kalvin Phillips back from suspension, with the goalkeeper Illan Meslier potentially available again after illness. After the trip to St James’ Park, they visit Leicester on Sunday before hosting Everton on 3 February.